A Softer Side of Malbec

A Softer Side of Malbec

Posted on Feb, 09. 2010 by

Categories: Wine

2008 Aqua de Piedra Gran Reserva Mendoza Malbec
Retail price before [member discount|Our members save an average of 25% off the normal retail prices. As a courtesy to the retail wine industry we do not publish our prices.] $11.25 • Buy this wine!

In my e-mail in box this morning there was a subject line from one of the many wine markets that I subscribe to asking if Malbec was “going to go the way of the Hula Hoop?” I did not even have to read the body of the e-mail to know just what these guys would be talking about. Malbec has seen quite a craze for the last several years which has produced two main trends: One, an interest in Argentina from some of the top winemakers in the world who are producing great wine from the region and two, a wave of terrible, alcoholic, flabby fruit bombs that has swept in and overwhelmed the market.

In this business you are faced with the task of tasting a lot of terrible wine and these days much of the terrible stuff that is put in front of you is Malbec just as 10 years ago it was a lot of terrible Aussie Shiraz. But that is what the market wants and that is what is selling and so you have to consider these things. And yet with as much terrible Malbec as there is to be had, there is a reason this wine became so popular, there is, in fact, some pretty delicious Malbec coming out of Argentina today.

Now I am a bit of a classicist and am often accused of being stuck in my ways and I have indeed spent a lot more money and time tracking down Malbec from its place of origin in Cahors, France. Cahors is an appellation that has earned the nick name of “The Black Wine,” and it is here that the grape migrated down from Bordeaux (where it is still used often) and found a home as the grape of choice. This was hundreds of years ago, however, and the first wave of Malbec fanaticism happened when France’s Southwest region ended up on the Medieval pilgrimage route to St Sebastian in Spain. All of Europe was on about Cahors and Jurancon in those days but after the Phyloxera of the Victorian era that wiped out much of Europe’s vines, the Southwest region of France, long out of favor from a far less devout European generation, was one of the last regions to recover. So much so that we are really only hearing more about them just in the last ten years. In fact many Bordelaise wine giants abandoned hope for this region and took the Malbec grape down to Argentina, it is they who are largely credited with the success of this grape in this region.

So which came first the chicken or the egg? It was Cahors who created the famous Black Wine of France pre 19th Century but it is Argentina who has given the grape life and the world recognition it knows today. Cahors itself has had to follow suit. The style of Malbec coming out of Argentina is so smooth, velvety and round as opposed to the way they do it in Cahors where the wine comes out dense and terse with big chewy tannins that need ages to mellow and soften. It is in this region of Cahors (and its brother city of Madiran) where microoxygenation really became a solid practice, the letting of tiny bubbles up through the vats of tannic Malbec to soften the wine and emphasize the fruit so as to compete in the world market with the Argentinean style.

Personally I like the classic wines of Cahors that are rough, monstrously big and chewy man wines like bramble and leather. There is a time for that. But I will admit that I have tasted some Argentinean Malbecs that are delicious other-worldly expressions of this grape. The most definitive of this style in recent time is the 2007 Flechas De Los Andes  that we sent out an offer for a few months back. This was excellent wine and for me, benchmark Argentinean Malbec. This wine recieved 90 and 92 points from the big wine journals, costs just under $15 and has the classic deep, inky purple fruits and almost a maple syrup intensity of weight and flavor. Those of you who got some will know what I mean. And by the way this wine has made our soon to be released ‘top ten wines of 2009 that are still available’ list. That’s right, you can still get it. The Flechas offers in Fruit weight what the Cahors offers in tannic weight but neither of these wines have ever been accused of being soft and easy drinking.

On the other side of the spectrum of Malbecian potential is another style of Argentinean Malbec that I want to turn you on to today, soft Malbec. The 2008 Aqua de Piedra Gran Reserva Mendoza Malbec is a wine I had recently in a line up of Malbecs and Bordeaux and it was far and away the clear stand out. This wine does not have the berry fruit reduction and maple syrup intensity. It has cool mixed berry fruit that is bright but easy and soft at the same time. It is a composed wine for Argentina delivering a flavor that enfolds an Old World restraint and a New World immediacy. This is a wine that I could drink every day. It is really the best of its kind doing what has not yet been done with Malbec in Cahors, France or what is commonly done in Argentina, and showing the flavor of its fruit in a soft and delightful all-palate and anytime wine. As long as they keep making them like this one I think we will never have to worry about Malbec going out of vogue.

At this price I give this wine my highest ‘everyday, with any food or on its own’ approval.

2008 Aqua de Piedra Gran Reserva Mendoza Malbec
Retail price before [member discount|Our members save an average of 25% off the normal retail prices. As a courtesy to the retail wine industry we do not publish our prices.] $11.25 • Buy this wine!

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